Mt. Shizhu Daoist Temple (Fuqing, Fujian)
Mt. Shizhu is situated ten kilometers to the west of Fuqing City, Fujian Province. It is the southern section of the range of Mt. Xishan, the remaining range of Mt. Daiyun in the region of central Min. Its highest peak is Zhuangyuan Peak, which rises 534 meters above sea level. "The stones on the mountain can retain traces and are frequented by cranes, and its bamboos seem as if they scrape the sky and transform into dragons." The mountain is so named for its grotesque-shaped rocks (shi) and beautiful bamboos (zhu). It is a famous Daoist mountain in Fujian Province.
According to legend, in the Wei and Jin dynasties, the "Temple of the Numinous Treasure " ( 靈寶觀 Lingbao Guan ) already existed on the mountain, and The Numinous Treasure Sect ( 靈寶派 Lingbao Pai ) of The Celestial Masters Tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao ) started to spread in this region. In the first Dazhong year of the Tang dynasty (A.D. 847), the buildings of the temple already took shape. Later, it was once changed into Mt. Shizhu Temple, which incorporated both Daoist and Buddhist cultures. Today, it has turned back into a place for Daoist activities and is named Mt. Shizhu Daoist Temple.
Set on the cliff halfway up the southern range of the mountain, Mt. Shizhu Daoist Temple looks like a castle in the air and presents a wonderful sight. The temple consists of the Immortal Sovereign Tower, the Guanyin Hall, the Wenchang Pavilion, etc. The chief divinities enshrined are the nine He Immortals. According to records, a Mr. He in the period of Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty was recommended to be the procurator of Fuzhou. He's nine sons went to Min with their father. They did not seek high position but aspired for purity and emptiness. They first practiced the Dao on the mountain in Fuzhou, then withdrew from society and lived in solitude on Mt. Shizhu to refine elixirs, and finally traveled to Jiuli Lake and, riding on a dragon, flew to immortality. It is said that after attaining the Dao, the nine He Immortals often manifested themselves on Mt. Shizhu and by the side of Jiuli Lake. Consequently, there exist in Fujian province the folk customs of "praying for immortality on Mt. Shizhu in spring?and divining by drawing lots by Jiuli Lake in winter."
The rocks of Mt. Shizhu are grotesque shaped and its caves are deep and serene. On the mountain, there are natural grottos such as Purple Clouds Grotto, Peach Spring Grotto, Lofty Grotto, Sun and Moon Grotto, Picking Stars Terrace, Dragon Transformation Lair, and sights of natural rocks, such as the Cranes' Image Stone, Fleabane Pot Stone, Mandarin Duck Stone, Chessboard Stone, Tortoise and Snake Stone, and Peach Stone. They all look vivid and unusual.
Quite a number of scholars leisurely visited Mt. Shizhu in the past dynasties. Numerous carved stones on cliffs are still kept on the mountain at present. Zhu Xi of the Song dynasty, Ye Xianggao, Wang Shimao, and Xie Zhaozhe of the Ming dynasty, and Chen Baochen towards the end of the Qing dynasty all left behind precious inscriptions or poetical works. Xu Xiake, the great traveler and geographer of the Ming dynasty, sightsaw Mt. Shizhu out of admiration in middle June in the first Taichang year (1620). He called Mt. Shizhu "the most wonderful of cliffs".
It is a great delight to climb the immortal Mt. Shizhu by cable car, visit the immortal temples and pavilions, dream to ascend immortality as the nine immortals, look at the strange stones and deep caves, and read the vestiges of sages.